Many argue 8½ is Fellini’s greatest achievement, a film within a film, a semi-autobiographical narrative of a film director, pressured by expectation of his newest work, retreating into his memories, fantasies and fears.
Surrounded by sycophants, lovers current and past as well as his wife, Anouk Aimée (Lola, Un homme et une femme), Marcello Mastroianni (La Dolce Vita, Divorce – Italian Style) plays the director lost in the realms of dream and nightmare as his ideas and creativity struggle. Pressured by his producer, his writer for something, anything along with various actresses waiting for their promised parts, Mastroianni examines his life.
Fellini’s last black and white feature, 8½ is a fluidity of choreographed music and image looking for a meaningful sense to life. Fantasy is interspersed with realism, selective memory with a current narrative. Oft copied in style, Fellini’s indulgent arthouse success appears dated, safe rather than surreal, dull rather than cutting edge. It may be so, but many current auteurs found inspiration from this groundbreaking 1963 feature.
Nominated for 5 Oscars in 1964 including best director, original screenplay, won 2 for best foreign language film & costume design (Piero Gherardi).